A recent survey has shown that the number of “first-class” degrees awarded by universities in the UK have seen a sharp increase.

The Survey

According to a “Press Association” survey, the number of students awarded with top degree grades by universities in the UK has seen a sharp increase in recent years. The survey found that universities are now giving over 33 percent of their students “first-class degrees.

Surrey University has given around 41 percent of its students first-class degrees last year, almost double the amount it gave out around 5 years ago. East Anglia University has given such degrees to 37 percent of its students- triple that of 5 years ago.

The survey found that among the most prestigious Russell Group universities, over 25 percent of students have received first-class degrees. After analysing data from 2015/2016, The “Higher Education Statistics Agency” (HESA), around 24 percent of students had received first-class degrees last year, in comparison to 21 percent receiving a second. This year, the most commonly awarded degree is an upper second-class degree- at about 51 percent.

The HESA figures also show that in 1994, only about 7 percent of students received first class degrees.

Comments On the Finding

Nick Hillman, the “Higher Education Policy Institute” director, commented on this, saying: “There are people who think the system isn’t as robust as it might be.” “It can all be a bit cosy – you ask someone you know to be an external examiner.”

“A comparison would be if schools could decide how many A grades to give in A-levels – it’s a big incentive for grade inflation,” said Mr Hillman.

Buckingham University’s Professor Smithers said that unlike national exams, including A-levels and GCSEs, universities are “free to award as many firsts as they like”.

“They have every incentive to do so,” he said. ”Students like to have top-class degrees and may choose universities on that basis. Increasing firsts could push universities up league tables”, said Prof Smithers. “If every other university is doing it, you don’t want to get left behind.”

Education professor, Alan Smithers described the trend as “chronic grade inflation”

Prof Jane Powell, the university’s vice-provost, said it “reflects a combination of national trends and the University of Surrey’s concentrated focus on enhancing all aspects of our educational provision”.

“It is very pleasing to see this high level of commitment by both staff and students translating into excellent degree results, the rigorous standards of which are confirmed by external independent assurance processes.”

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